The fall of the Berlin Wall : what’s in a title

25 years ago, on 9 November 1989, following weeks of images on the world’s television screens of candle-lit demonstrations in Leipzig, overcrowded embassies and trains, the Berlin Wall opened and residents of East and West Germany flooded across the former border. Some of these images are recorded in 9. November 1989, der Tag der Deutschen (9000.d.4068). The period between October 1989 and reunification a year later was one of tremendous upheaval and rapid change. The turmoil was reflected in the publishing industry, as editions licensed between East and West (Lizenzausgaben) became a thing of the past, replaced initially by joint East/West publications, only for such joint enterprises rapidly to disappear. Old GDR publishing houses were merged or closed, and new publishing houses sprang up, many of them very short-lived.


Selected books of the Berlin Wall in the UL

It has been estimated that from November 1989 onwards a new book on contemporary events was being published every working day. Cambridge University Library did its very best to keep abreast of all these titles and collected extensively in the field. It could be a strange experience. In writing to ask a new publisher about titles and prices, sometimes the actual books were sent by return without charge. We were one of six British libraries who contributed to a union list of titles, along with the Bodleian, the university libraries of Nottingham, Portsmouth and Warwick, and the Institute of Germanic Studies of the University of London (now part of Senate House Library). This was published in 1993 under the title Two into one : Germany 1989-1992 : a bibliography of the ‘Wende’ (Cam.d.993.5, R560.G69). The introduction pays testimony to the range of Cambridge’s collecting activity: “Of those libraries contributing, only Cambridge University can be said to cover every aspect of the subject”.

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The little-known Nobel laureate

A selection of older Modiano novels in the UL

A selection of Modiano novels in the UL

Since the announcement on October 9th of the 2014 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, much has been written in the media both here and across the Atlantic attempting to answer the question “Who on earth is Patrick Modiano?”. He is a well-known author in his native France, having won both the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1972 and the Prix Goncourt in 1978, but is much less renowned in the English-speaking world, perhaps because only a few of his works have been translated into English. Continue reading

RIP Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez passed away on April 17th 2014 at the age of 87. He was unquestionably Colombia’s greatest writer – his country’s president even described him after his death as “the greatest Colombian who ever lived” – and one of the most important of all Spanish language (and indeed world) authors. His influence and importance on the Latin American and world stage cannot be overstated, nor the full scope of his work easily summarised. Continue reading

Where is 21st century Latin American fiction heading?

A screenshot of the collaborative online translation project “Palabras errantes” presented at the seminar.

A screenshot of the collaborative online translation project “palabras errantes” presented at the seminar.

What are the new trends in Latin American fiction? Can we go beyond the general conviction that, after the ‘60s “boom”, Latin American fiction experienced a steady decline both in the quality and quantity of literary works produced? How are researchers, librarians and publishers reacting to this in the UK? These and many more questions were answered at the seminar 21st Century Fiction from Latin America  held on Wednesday 12th of February 2014 at Senate House, London.

The panorama of 21st Latin American fiction is hugely vast and exciting, as was evidenced by the very stimulating contributions presented at the Seminar. Here we mention some of them. Continue reading

Inspector Montalbano

Many of us will have been hooked by Luca Zingarelli’s portrayal of Inspector Montalbano in RAI TV’s recent adaptations. Set in Sicily, excellently cast and scripted, these detective stories have been one of the highlights of BBC 4’s foreign language drama series, cleverly broadcast with subtitles rather than dubbed, thus retaining the magic of the original.

Andrea Camilleri, born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, in 1925, wrote his first in a long series of novels featuring the character of Inspector Montalbano, in 1994. Hugely popular, these novels and short stories, set in Vigata, a thinly disguised version of his birthplace, have captured the public’s imagination and have graduated from being popular bestsellers to being part of the canon of contemporary Italian literature. Continue reading